‘I’m sorry we can’t give you feedback’: Why employers need to step up

Not receiving feedback after a job rejection is frustrating and also damaging to the workforce. This is why employers need to step up...
Kim Connor Streich
Kim Connor Streich

Applying for jobs is a stressful and time-consuming process for anyone, but especially for students approaching the end of their degree. We’ve all been there;  several coffees down, typing manically at our keyboards, trying to think of all those extra-curriculars relevant to the job description. What about that time I tried horse riding in year 8? Nahhh…

And we’ve probably also all had that experience of rejection, that dreaded ‘Unfortunately your application has been  unsuccessful this time’ email. Rejection is hard as it is, but can be even more frustrating if you’re not given any feedback to help you improve for next time.

This needs to change and for two very important reasons.

We all deserve better

we deserve feedback

Firstly, when an employer provides a completely non-existent explanation as to why you’ve been unsuccessful it can be very demoralising. After you’ve pulled your hair out over the seemingly never-ending application process and invested a huge amount of effort, time (and often money) in attending interviews and assessment centres, you feel like you deserve some feedback. And you do.

Feedback helps you to focus on what you can learn from your application and how you can improve for next time, instead of focusing on the rejection itself.

Feedback benefits everyone

the benefits of feedback

Feedback is of course useful for the candidate, enabling them to improve and achieve success at future interviews. At the end of the day, nobody is perfect, even if some people think they are. Imperfections are your asset as they help you learn more about yourself –  which is good for me because I have many!

This kind of advice helps you in your search for your next role. You can learn what went well, and what didn’t – even if this list is longer than the good stuff! You can then work to change this in  future applications and interviews. This ability to learn from your mistakes and bounce back from unexpected events is a highly desirable asset that will impress future employers.

This will prevent you from being stuck in a rejection Groundhog Day, experiencing the same thing over and over again.

But employers will also benefit from giving feedback! They’ll be improving the quality of the workforce and helping equip candidates with the skills and traits they are seeking. A student who applies for a job but is unsuccessful on year, can apply again and be the perfect candidate the following year, if they’re given the right feedback.

So join the campaign

fight for feedback campaign

Thankfully, I’m not a lone ranger in the struggle to get feedback. Debut has spearheaded the Fight for Feedback campaign, which is lobbying the government to make it compulsory for employers to provide feedback after a face-to-face interview.  It is essential for people to know what went wrong, and clearly many people see where we’re coming from, as it’s hit the big time with mainstream media coverage. Ballin’.

One of the highlights was when Tim Campbell, first winner of The Apprentice, appeared on Sky News advocating for the scheme to be introduced. Whilst he accepted the difficult position employers find themselves with so many applicants, he noted the possible benefits for organisations in the future as candidates learn from their previous experiences, creating a positive ripple effect across the workforce as a whole.

Having also secured over 1,000 signatures on the petition (you also should REALLY sign the petition), it is now being considered by the policy team at the Department for Work and Pensions. This might sound dull to some, but it will hopefully lead to the exciting scenario where you actually get to find out what you did wrong and what you did well; you can thank me later!

I think it’s important that job applications and interview are treated in essentially the same way as essays and exams at university. You always get told what you did well, but also what you can improve on. And whilst hearing it from friends, parents and lecturers is helpful, they might not be as brutally honest (and useful) as a future employer.

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